Friday, June 8, 2012

What? New Teas?!

Insomnia has me in its unrelenting clutches this morning and I found myself recalling I had a blog that needs attention.

After much apprehension and waiting, my long anticipated (and quite overdue) parcel from Yunnan Sourcing is here.  With this I now have 4 young sheng pu'erhs to try and a very tasty looking hongcha.  Reviews will come soon, once I have some time off from work.

My new tea!  Terrible picture quality!
Now what I truly need it someone to share this tea with.  Nothing goes better with tea than companionship (yeah, all those bottled tea producers have it wrong, it's friends not sugar that goes with tea!).  Once again I am saddened by my small (read, nonexistent) group of tea drinking friends.
Mengku '07 being taken out for a spin.  Good first impression.
Until my first review then!

Cheers, Trevor

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Second Opinions

I find it infinitely fascinating and a little overwhelming how much variety and variance there is in the world of tea.  Not only are there many different types of tea, but there are also many different grades of tea.  On top of that there are many ways to enjoy tea.

I write this because I recently revisited the Xu Fu Long Ya that I reviewed on here, and had a much different experience with it.  I brewed it in a more casual way, just leaving the tea in my gaiwan and adding hot water as needed.  This is the way most Chinese enjoy their greens and I think there is something much more relaxing to it.  Rather than worrying about steeping times and whether or not infusion x was better than infusion y you just drink the tea.

I believe that sometimes I get so caught up in the process of making the tea I miss out on some of the enjoyment of drinking it.  There is a great deal of relaxation and even a sort of meditation present in making tea, but sometimes I focus too much on doing everything "just right" so I can get the "best flavor".  I do not think I am alone in this.  I am sure we teaheads all have moments where the enjoyment of the tea is lost in our scrutiny and research of it.

This isn't to say that research and scrutiny are bad things at all.  Evaluating and critiquing both the tea and our preparation is the only way to inform others of what works and what teas are worth buying.  I greatly appreciate all the reviews and shared experiences with tea that others allow me to read.  If it wasn't for such information I could potentially waste my entire (very small) tea budget on inferior tea.

Unrelated picture of a tea set I started using recently.

What I do think is a problem is when one doesn't allow themselves to just enjoy tea without the pressure of critiquing it or their preparation methods.  Do not forget what made you so interested in the world of tea in the first place; that first well brewed cup of tea.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lion Xi Hu Long Jing

Tea: Lion Xi Hu Long Jing "Dragonwell" (2012 First Flush)

Vendor: Tea Spring

I have had this tea previously (2010 First Flush) I believe.  I don't remember much from my experience with it, but I feel like something drastic has changed since the last time I had it.  Perhaps it is my palate has become more snobbish and this tea isn't up to par anymore.  Maybe the 2010 harvest was a much better harvest.  Or maybe I just don't know how to make this tea well anymore.  Whatever the reason I found this tea to be missing much, especially since I remember the last harvest I had being very good.

Dry leaf.  Uneven firing or discolored leaf on top.
The dry leaves are very flat, but don't appear to be very uniform in appearance like LJ usually is.

A lot of variety in the shape and size of leaf.

I would very much like to buy something a bit more authentic than this one day.  This tea is obviously not the "real deal", but that isn't to say it isn't drinkable.  I once made the mistake of buying a tin of "Dragonwell" at a local grocer.  It was 50g for $10 and it was horrendous.  This isn't nearly as bad.

The leaves have a pleasant sweet and vegetal aroma, a typical Chinese green tea smell.

The first infusion tastes very sweet and is quite aromatic.  The liquor tastes of sweet rice, sugar snap peas and artichoke.  There is no bitterness to speak of.

The second infusion brings out a spicy almost cinnamon like smell in the liquor.  I detect a faint nutiness in the taste.  The brew is still sweet with a little grassiness now.

Second infusion.

By the third brew the taste is diminishing a lot more, and some bitterness seems to be creeping in on the edges of each sip.  The notes of sweet rice and steamed peas are center stage.

Alex: Where's my cup daddy?

The subsequent infusions bring nothing different and all I get is a flat tasting tea with little aroma.  This tea didn't have much to say it seems.  The tea is very lackluster to me, but maybe I just don't know how to brew it.  I tried using very short infusions and longer infusions during two different sessions and both weren't very effective.

A crack in my tea tray I discovered during this session.  -.-

Next time I go down the path of LJ I am going for something a bit more authentic.  Before then I will keep learning what I can of Chinese greens so I can brew them with more confidence.

Fourth or fifth infusion.

Unfortunately I don't have any other teas to review until my package from Yunnan Sourcing gets here.  I wish I had an estimate on that, but at this point I think they lost my package.  On top of that my emails to them seem to get sucked into a black hole, never to be heard from again.  -.-

Spent leaves in gaiwan.

Anyway thanks for reading.  Cheers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Teas Coming and Going

Here is another short update of my personal tea news.

As a result of some poor tea-based planning on my part I will not be reviewing the TGY I got from Tea Spring earlier this month.  I took the tin of it to work with the intention of brewing it "grandpa style" (a phrase I got from MarshalN).  The results of this were more fortuitous than I imagined they would be.

Unfortunately I used up the majority of what was left of my sample, and at some point I managed to lose the rest of the tin.  So sadly I won't have any formal session with this tea, but I don't think there was a lot to be said.  I did enjoy the tea, but it wasn't something I had any particular high praises for.

The good news is I have a new order of teas coming in this week (praying that the USPS doesn't smash the box again).  There are four sheng pu'erhs and a black tea.  I have read a review for one of the pu'erhs and it looks to be like a promising tea.  I will post pictures when I get the package.

Lastly I am working on a second page to this blog that will be a condensed introduction to artisan tea.  This is to help any of my readers that still don't know very much, or those that need to refresh their memory on terms or words I might use.

That's all my comings and goings for now.  Thanks for reading.  Cheers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Xu Fu Long Ya

Tea: Xu Fu Long Ya

Vendor: Tea Spring

This is my first time having this tea, though every time I go to Tea Spring's site it has teased me.  This year I finally gave in to it.

The first thing that struck me upon opening the package was the tiny leaves (looks like they are almost entirely buds or one leaf-one bud sets.), and the intoxicating smell.  They smelled very green and had an aroma that makes me think of something slightly spicy... I want to say black pepper.

Dry leaf in my cha he (presentation vessel).
  I went fairly heavy on the leaf to water ratio with this tea as I usually tend to end up with a weak brew when it comes to Chinese greens.  This ratio might have been a bit too much the first time I tried it as I ended up with something not resembling what I expected of this tea.  Very astringent and much too bitter.  This might also have been my water temps being too high.

For my next tasting I approached much more cautiously.  I still went heavy on the leaf, but kept the temperatures near 160F.  The result was a much better tasting brew with little astringency and virtually no bitterness.

My first infusion was steeped for about 45 seconds (most cautiousness on my part) at 165F.  Very light green-yellow colored liquor.  The aroma was sweet and vegetal with a slight spiciness.  The taste was very mellow and sweet in the back of my throat.  This reminded me a little of a yellow tea I had from this vendor before.  There is a slight astringency.  This is either a very fickle tea or the astringency is just unavoidable.

First infusion in the cups.

The second infusion was very similar to the first, at least to my inexperienced palate.  The wet leaves in my gaiwan smelled like steamed sugar-snap peas.  Very sweet and vegetal like the liquor.  The tea still hints that it's being steeped at too hot a temperature.

Steeping tea.
The third infusion saw the flavor diminish greatly.  There is a light astringency and a very sweet and spicy taste with the same vegetal flavor as before.  There is no bitterness to speak of at all.

In the fourth infusion I taste a slight butteriness after swallowing.  The spiciness that was present has given way to a very weak floral note.  The leaves in the gaiwan have cooled and smell much more grassy than before.

Much of the tea slips through the gaiwan into the filter.
Overall I enjoyed this tea, but my steeping of it does need refinement.  I have enough left for one more session, and maybe I can unlock what this tea seems to be missing.

Next I will be doing a post on the Long Jing I received from this vendor and possibly a green TGY.  Hopefully at the end of this week I will also be ordering a few sheng pu'erh samples that I will post my experiences with.

Thanks for reading everyone!  Cheers.

Friday, May 4, 2012

New Tea!

Greetings readers, I just decided to drop a small post on my new order of tea I just received.  I got the package Thursday and have already sampled two of the three teas.  I'll be posting a review/monologue on them later next week after I get a chance to have sessions with them that don't involve oversteeping or cats dipping their tails in my cup (happens more than it should).

Not a good addition to a cup of tea.

The package arrived a bit later than I was expecting, but that's what you get when you order direct from China.  Along the way my poor teas suffered an extreme amount of stress as can be seen in this picture below.

This package shows the rigors of international shipping.

Luckily the tea itself was safe (also glad I didn't order teaware *cringes*).

Left to right: Xu Fu Long Ya, Long Jing, Jade TGY

The three teas are from Tea Spring and are: Lion Xi Hu Long Jing (Dragonwell to us westerners), Xu Fu Long Ya (Dragon Tooth), and Jade Tie Guan Yin.  I've had the Long Jing and TGY before, but these are both different harvests from what I tried before.  I'm excited to break them out and start doing some serious tea drinking.

Well that was all for this post, some reviews of these teas are coming up soon.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

First Tea Review

Tea: 2010 Winter Harvest High Fired TGY

Vendor: Norbu Tea

(This is not so much a review as it is a monologue on my experience with this tea, as this is a first time jump into blogging about tea.)

I have had this tea since early last year, in fact it was one of the last teas I bought before falling off Planet Tea and so sadly this is about the freshest I have on my shelf currently.  I bought it with a light fired TGY as well and both were very interesting and fulfilling (especially when I first bought them over a year ago *looks down in shame*).

I have no clue what the aging quality of high fired TGY is, but I do know that this tea does still have something left in it, despite its age.  For this session I used my semi-dedicated Lao Zi Ni "Xi Shi" 160mL teapot.  I originally wanted to use it for the greener Chinese TGY I usually drink.  The problem is I know next to nothing about yixing and tea pairings so I am still experimenting.  This is the first time I've used it for this tea.

Here's the little guy (please forgive my crappy camera).

This tea is my first high fired TGY so I don't really know what to expect from it.  I just go with my gut when it comes to labeling tastes and aromas.

The dry leaves are dark and rather large compared to the green TGY I usually drink.  They smell roasted and a subdued scent of flowers teases my nose.

These leaves are begging to be steeped.

I brew it with water near 195F and very short infusions at first.  Afterwards I checked Norbu's site and found that I might have got more out of it with longer steep times.  Another note for the next session.
My brew times were as follows: 1st ~8 sec., 2nd ~15 sec., 3rd ~30 sec., 4th ~45 sec., etc.

The liquor opened up with an aroma of caramel/molasses and a slight floral note.  The taste is very floral and sweet at first, something I have never had when brewing this in my gaiwan.  The smell of the wet leaves in the pot is very roasted and thick in the nose.

The second infusion loses the sweetness and gains a strong roasted aroma that's hard to describe.  The bottom of the empty cup has a small hint of fruitiness (maybe dried stone fruit) and is mouth watering.

In the third infusion the aroma of roasted molasses and dried fruit comes out more fully.  The taste is something like cherry blossom, fruit and some mineral notes.  The wet leaves smell very acidic and still very roasted.

1st infusion

2nd infusion

3rd infusion
6th or 7th infusion

Spent leaves.

Giving my pot a tea bath.

Later infusions the aroma really opens up and the taste begins to diminish.  I took this tea into four more infusions, but nothing really changed past number five except an almost pineapple like aroma in the sixth infusion.

 During my session I had a couple visitors.
Alex loves my seat.

Tika watching gong fu.